There seemed to be two very distinct categories of building in Japan, lovely examples of the traditional form either actually old, or lovingly reprised by new designers OR stunningly inventive and sleek modernist pieces, often in rigorously precise concrete and glass. Here are some of the highlights of modernist Japan:
Perhaps the most surprising detour of our trip was the Naka Waste Incineration Plant, a trash facility at the water’s edge in Hiroshima. We made our pilgrimage to the bomb site and then treked out to the farthest point of the city to see the plant, hiking through an industrial area at high noon to find this monster factory designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, also of the 2004 MOMA extension. We cooled off in the shady, breezy “Ecorium” a spacious tree lined tunnel cutting through the building with views back to the city, into the incineration towers and out to sea. Even my sister agreed it was well worth the journey.
Another highlight of our universally great trip was the art museum island of Naoshima. We barely scratched the surface of the available architectural delights. Rather than rush from museum to museum (there are four designed by Tadao Ando) I just acknowledged that I WILL RETURN TO NAOSHIMA LATER and we limited ourself to the village of Honmura where a number of art installations set within un-used house are scattered.
One of my favorite buildings on in Honmura was not a museum but the Naoshima Community Center designed by Hiroshi Sambuichi. I’m not alone in thinking its awesome. It was recently featured in Dezeen and just won the 2017 Wallpaper* Design Award in Best New Public Building category as well.
I got an amazing tour of the space from a tiny retiree who led us on a totally gestural (as we had no language cross over) survey of the buildings features. He explained the heat chimney roof, the public and private spaces and the various types of enclosure, he even showed off how the light moved through the space at different times of day!
Note: I was sadly unable to take too many images of the Art House Project on Naoshima – I can respect my fellow designers’ desire to protect their own work but I was sad not to be able to take home my memories in digital form.
I did enjoy the Ando buildings scattered around Naoshima to the utmost. And then I was surprised by another one, a small private art museum hidden inside the Shikoku Mura (a collection of historic buildings gathered from around the island of Shikoku which was a high point of the whole trip. Photos weren’t allowed in the gallery spaces but I snapped away happily in the lobby and exterior water garden.
I collected snaps of many modernist private residences as we strolled through city streets on our way from one sight seeing venture to another.